Today in Question Period Premier John Horgan characterized me as being “gloomy” for highlighting how climate change is challenging our province.
Frankly, I’m gloomy because this week’s report from the UN warns we are on the path to 3.2 degrees warming – something one expert described as “terrifying.” This legislative session we’ve asked questions about species like steelhead and caribou that are going extinct, and heard no real plan to address the root of the problem – the World War 2 era economic plan.
In the face of all the scientific evidence and warnings, this government not only chooses to approve the biggest point source of pollution in the province’s history, but subsidize it with public funds every step of the way.
Despite the responses from government it’s important to focus on the fact the public needs more than just highlighting the number of people working in the innovation economy. There are many communities across the province that have relied on the resource extraction for multiple generations that are in deep trouble. There appears to be no plan for how the province is going to assist them in renewing their local economies.
Honestly, my question is less about being gloomy, and more about being realistic. It’s actually more about wanting to hear an articulate and thoughtful vision that has less focus on fossil fuel subsidies and more about the transformation our economy desperately needs.
We’re coming to the end of a decade, and when we return back to this House, it will be 2020. It’s with this context that as we turn the corner, I believe we need to be more deliberate in how we tackle the wicked problem of our generation, climate change. CleanBC is a good start, one that we celebrate together. However, to reach our targets, government is going to have to challenge business as usual and recalibrate our trajectory.
There is lots of talk about the new economy, but when we look around, we are still harvesting natural resources at unsustainable levels, still justifying logging old growth and still subsidizing multinational fossil fuel companies with taxpayers’ money. It’s not only about having the vision of a more prosperous, sustainable and resilient economy; it’s about having a plan and the political will to bring all the stakeholders to the table — the people, the invested industries and advocacy organizations — to have an honest conversation about where we’re at and where we need to go.
To the hon. Premier, we’ve seen a very similar approach to engaging industry as we’ve seen with the last government. We react to threats and limit our ambition. Why are we still lowering the bar for industries that are trying to protect the profits they extract through maintaining the status quo?
Hon. G. Heyman:
Thank you to the member for the question.
As the member knows, we have one of the most, if not the most, ambitious climate change emission reduction strategies in North America that we have coupled with an ambitious economic plan to reduce emissions in our traditional resource industries and to promote technological innovations to reduce emissions further and market products.
I respectfully disagree with the member that we react to complaints from any one sector. We, in fact, consult broadly. In the Climate Change Accountability Amendment Act amendments that we passed a couple of weeks ago, we have set up and will be establishing a council that is broadly based of all British Columbia society, including labour, academia, local governments, Indigenous people, business, environmental organizations and people who live out of the mainly populated areas of southern Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland.
We are intent on continuing our leadership in North America, but we know that you cannot have a climate plan that captures the imagination of British Columbians if we’re shedding jobs or hurting the economy. We need to couple climate action with diversified economic growth and protecting jobs in communities around B.C. That’s exactly what we’re doing.
The member for Saanich North and the Islands on a supplemental.
Thank you to the minister for his response. It’s exactly where I’m going with this supplemental question, because having a steady hand managing the status quo is not good enough anymore.
We can see clearer than ever that ours is a province and an economy that is in transition. While we boast about a strong economy, we can see the underlying signs of trouble. The province is experiencing a deep affordability crisis in urban British Columbia and a dramatic need for restoration in our resource communities.
People are looking to the provincial government for a sophisticated response to complex challenges that we face. An affordability crisis in housing, labour unrest, rural and remote resource economies in collapse, health care and public education budgets bursting and climate change are largely problems that have been inherited or, in some cases, covered up by the previous government. But that doesn’t change the fact that more of the same will only get us more of the same.
My question is to the hon. Premier. Does the Premier agree that we must take steps now to become less reliant on exploiting non-renewable resources and receiving resource rents and instead focus our energies on innovation and building new economic sectors for the province and the people?
Hon. J. Horgan:
I appreciate the question from the member from the Third Party, although I don’t have as gloomy an outlook as he does and I don’t think British Columbians do. There are over 100,000 people working in the innovative sector today and more to come.
You mentioned labour strife. I don’t know if you read the paper this morning, but free, collective bargaining has allowed the transit situation to be resolved. If we had listened to the people on the other side, well, that might not have happened. The best deal, as we all know, is a deal that’s reached collectively, cooperatively between the two parties. When I see union leaders coming out and saying, “We got a good deal for our members,” and I see the employer coming out and saying: “I got a good deal for the bottom line,” that’s a benefit to everyone.
Now, I appreciate the member from Saanich North and the Islands wants to have a gloomy view as we leave this place, but I’d like to think that we’ve done extraordinary things here. Working in cooperation with the Green Party and all members of this House, we passed the UN declaration on the rights of Indigenous peoples in this Legislature.
I appreciate that the member from Saanich North and the Gulf Islands would prefer that we eradicate the challenges of climate change in less than 12 months, but five million souls in British Columbia, doing the best they can and leading North America, is what we’ve been doing. I know you agree with that statement, hon. Member.
We have an innovative economy. We have a dynamic community, and we have hope and optimism for a very, very bright future for British Columbians.